QUESTION: I am trying to select a paddle ceiling fan to reduce my electric bills, but they all look about the same. Is there really much difference between the expensive and cheap ones and what should I look for?
A: Although most ceiling fans look similar at first glance, there are tremendous differences among them. A lower-quality fan can be noisy, wobble (particularly annoying with a light attached), not provide adequate air circulation, and wear out prematurely. Definitely don't just shop for the lowest-price ceiling fan.
The most significant design factors to consider when selecting a ceiling fan are the size of the motor, pitch of the blades, blade material and finish, types of bearings, and sound isolation features.
A larger, high-quality motor can deliver greater air flow and much longer life. Since it is more powerful, a larger motor isn't being stressed to provide adequate ventilation. It should also run cooler and quieter with less motor hum.
The pitch angle of the blades is an indicator of the quality of the fan. Since a greater pitch moves more air, a larger motor is usually used. Cheaper fans with little blade pitch look good and spin as fast, but they don't provide much air movement.
Double-shielded, permanently-lubricated bearings are best for a long, maintenance-free life. Much dust circulates through fan when it's running. These bearings also operate quieter, even when they are new.
Much of the noise from a fan is amplified by the blades. Even a slight noise in the motor or bearings can be increased by the large blade surface area. A fan should have a hard rubber or flexible fan blade hub (where the blades attach to the fan). This isolates the blade from any motor or bearing noise or vibration.
Top-quality fans use blades made of specially-selected wood materials that are carefully finished and matched for balanced sets. A cheaper, unbalanced set can warp and cause wobble. The finish on the blade is important both for appearance and function. A durable, even finish seals out humidity which can cause a blade to warp.
Although most ceiling fans have three reversible speeds, the speed range from low to high varies considerably. Since you will seldom run the fan on high, the lower speeds are important too. A better-quality fan has a greater variation in speed from low to high for better control and comfort.
You can write to me for Utility Bills Update No. 115 listing manufacturers of high-quality ceiling fans, model numbers and specifications of motor size, low-to-high speeds, types of bearings, blade pitch, and blade materials. Please include $1.00 and self-addressed business-sized envelope. Send your requests to James Dulley, c/o Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.
Stacks of Newspapers Make Risky Firewood
Q: I was considering saving my old newspapers for "newspaper logs" to burn in my fireplace next fall. What is the best way to store the newspaper for the best heat output?
A: It probably is not a good idea to store newspapers over a long period of time. Storing old newspapers is a fire hazard. Newspaper logs can supplement wood in a fireplace, but not replace it. Paper can cause a flash fire and weaken the fireplace glass doors. Take your newspaper to a recycling center. In the fall, you can use each day's newspaper (not my column, please) in your fireplace as you need it.